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Sean Combs’s Legal Troubles: What We Know

Sean Combs’s Legal Troubles: What We Know

Since federal agents raided two of Sean Combs’s homes in Los Angeles and the Miami area on March 25, the investigation into the hip-hop mogul has become the subject of intense public interest and speculation.

The raids were conducted by Homeland Security Investigations, which has said very little about the focus of its inquiry. No criminal charges have been filed against Mr. Combs in relation to the case.

But the footage of federal officers brandishing weapons while entering Mr. Combs’s sprawling Los Angeles mansion, where they confiscated computers and other devices, has raised questions about the nature of the investigation and how it might relate to a series of civil sexual assault lawsuits filed against Mr. Combs in recent months.

Mr. Combs — a high-profile music producer and artist for decades who has been lauded as one of the architects of hip-hop’s commercial rise — has vehemently denied all the accusations, and his lawyer called the raids a “witch hunt based on meritless accusations made in civil lawsuits.”

As details about the federal investigation gradually emerge, here is what we know about Mr. Combs’s legal troubles.

On the afternoon of March 25, federal agents raided residences associated with Mr. Combs, 54, in Florida and California. Footage of the Los Angeles raid taken by a local television station, Fox 11, captured agents filing past manicured hedges and into Mr. Combs’s home.

Video of Mr. Combs’s home showing the aftermath of the raid that was published by TMZ showed belongings spilling out of cabinets and a set of empty shelves with Mr. Combs’s three Grammys sitting on top.

Mr. Combs was stopped that day at an airport in the Miami area as he was preparing to leave for the Bahamas, according to a person with knowledge of the matter, who noted that federal agents took a number of electronic devices from him. Mr. Combs cooperated with authorities and was not detained, his lawyer said.

A federal official said the inquiry into Mr. Combs was at least in part a human trafficking investigation. Homeland Security Investigations often leads inquiries into trafficking. It’s not clear exactly how the federal investigation relates to the civil lawsuits filed against Mr. Combs, but all of the civil suits accused him of violating sex trafficking laws.

The dramatic raids on Mr. Combs’s properties follow a series of lawsuits, in which four women have accused him of rape and sexual assault and a man accused him of unwanted sexual contact.

Several of the lawsuits accused Mr. Combs of human trafficking, with two of the plaintiffs accusing him of forcing them to participate in sexual encounters with prostitutes.

The first lawsuit was filed by his former girlfriend Casandra Ventura, who makes music as the singer Cassie. She accused Mr. Combs of rape, physical abuse and forced sex with male prostitutes. The suit was settled just one day later, with both Mr. Combs and Ms. Ventura saying their dispute had been resolved “amicably.”

Three more lawsuits accusing him of rape were filed over the next three weeks.

In one, the plaintiff, Joi Dickerson-Neal, accused Mr. Combs of drugging and sexually assaulting her when she was a college student in 1991.

Another lawsuit, filed by a woman named Liza Gardner, also described allegations from the early 1990s. She accused Mr. Combs of coercing her into sex and then, a couple of days later, choking her so hard that she passed out.

A fourth woman, who filed her lawsuit anonymously, accused Mr. Combs and two other men of gang raping her in a recording studio in 2003, when she was 17. The judge in that case has ruled that — pending a motion to dismiss that was filed by Mr. Combs’s lawyers — the woman will have to use her real name if she wishes to proceed with the case.

The most recent lawsuit filed against Mr. Combs, in February, was brought by a music producer, Rodney Jones Jr., who worked on his most recent solo album. Mr. Jones, also known as Lil Rod, accused Mr. Combs of making unwanted sexual contact and forcing him to hire prostitutes and participate in sex acts with them.

It is not clear how exactly the civil suits factor into the federal investigation, but federal investigators in New York have been conducting interviews asking potential witnesses about sexual misconduct allegations against Mr. Combs for several months, according to a person familiar with the interviews.

The criminal inquiry is being conducted by federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York and federal agents with Homeland Security, a law-enforcement official said.

Mr. Combs has denied all of the allegations against him. In a statement released on the day the fourth lawsuit was filed, Mr. Combs said, “Let me be absolutely clear: I did not do any of the awful things being alleged. I will fight for my name, my family and for the truth.”

A lawyer for Mr. Combs, Jonathan D. Davis, said in a court filing in response to the gang rape lawsuit that the defendants’ reputations had been “irreparably damaged” and that the accusations “resulted in them becoming victims of the ‘cancel culture’ frenzy in the courts — well before any evidence has been presented, and on the basis of rank, uncorroborated allegations.”

A day after the raids, another one of Mr. Combs’s lawyers, Aaron Dyer, criticized the approach by Homeland Security, calling it a “gross overuse of military-level force” and an “unprecedented ambush.”

“There has been no finding of criminal or civil liability with any of these allegations,” Mr. Dyer said in a statement.

The only known arrest was of a 25-year-old associate of Mr. Combs who was charged with cocaine possession.

The associate, Brendan Paul, was arrested on Monday at Miami-Opa Locka Executive Airport, where federal agents stopped Mr. Combs. A former Division I college basketball player, Mr. Paul, who was released on bond, has posted on social media in the past about working with Mr. Combs.

The lawsuit filed by Mr. Jones, the music producer, accused Mr. Paul of working as Mr. Combs’s “mule,” claiming that he acquired and distributed drugs and guns for him. It also said that he sometimes negotiated fees for prostitutes for Mr. Combs. The lawsuit does not include Mr. Paul as a defendant.

A lawyer representing Mr. Paul, Brian H. Bieber, said in a statement, “We do not plan on trying this case in the media — all issues will be dealt with in Court.” He did not respond to questions about the allegations in Mr. Jones’s lawsuit.

The actor’s name has been circulating in connection with Mr. Combs because he was added this week as a defendant in Mr. Jones’s lawsuit. In the complaint, Mr. Jones accuses Mr. Gooding of groping his “upper inner thighs near his groin” on Mr. Combs’s yacht, after Mr. Combs introduced the two men.

A lawyer who had represented Mr. Gooding in a criminal sex abuse case — in which he pleaded guilty to a single count of harassment — did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Mr. Jones’s claim.

Hamed Aleaziz and William K. Rashbaum contributed reporting.




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